I hadn’t visited there since a school Geography field trip to Sandown many years ago and I wondered how much had changed in the intervening decades.
The first sign that very little might have changed came on the ferry where, amongst the expected cars and campervans there seemed to be a surprisingly large number of vintage motor scooters making the short journey across the Solent.
This strange collection of Vespas and Lambrettas were adorned with multiple mirrors, aerials (often with fur attached) and stickers, usually featuring a Union Jack or a large red, white and blue target symbol.
But without exception, they all seemed to be in mint condition.
It was as if I’d stumbled into a modern remake of Quadrophenia, historically correct, but with all the rough edges taken off.
Venturing onto the top deck of the ferry, the situation grew even weirder for here were a large number of mainly late middle aged men wearing Parka jackets and Ben Sherman shirts, clutching open face scooter helmets and smoking roll-ups.
Now, I’m personally very familiar with ‘vets’ football – like normal football, but a bit slower – but had I stumbled across another interpretation here – a sort of ‘vets’ version of the 60’s and 70’s Mods and Rockers seaside battles?
Should I be worried that I had taken the family away for a weekend into some kind of greying war zone, where the Isle of Wight’s beachfronts would be full of target-wearing scooter riders clashing with groups of so-far unseen leather clad bikies?
Fortunately, my fears proved unfounded because as I soon found out, this long weekend the Isle of Wight was playing host not only to my family, but also to the largest scooter rally in the world.
Throughout the weekend, the air was full of the spluttering sound of hundreds of scooters struggling up and down the Isle’s hilly coastline as their owners cruised around in packs, large and small.
There were some large rallies held over the weekend which I didn’t get to see, but what I did see was the enormous sense of enjoyment and camaraderie that existed amongst this group of people, united primarily by a love of a seemingly outdated mode of transport.
Maybe many of these people have cultivated a love of the scooter in recent years, but I wouldn’t mind betting that many of them are Mods from way back, leading ‘normal’ lives for most of the year, but every so often getting to relive their youths.
Britain’s popular culture has boasted numerous movements over the years, some relatively short-lived and some more enduring, but they were all able to capture the imagination and passions of large groups of people for a while.
And passions, once held strongly are hard to forget. We may move on from them in some ways, but they always retain an important place in our hearts, a flickering flame, capable of being re-ignited in the future.
Whilst I can’t see myself buying a scooter anytime soon and the closest I ever got to being a Mod was buying a few Jam albums, I have to admit an admiration for this group of Scooter fans, keeping their particular flame alive.